Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson imageWill Grayson #1 believes in two rules: 1. Don’t care too much. 2. Shut up. He’s pretty sure if he follows those he can make it through high school. But he’s not always good at following them. The last time he violated his rules was to defend his best friend Tiny Cooper, who is gay, in a signed letter for the school newspaper. Now he doesn’t have any friends but Tiny, who’s trying to set Will up with Jane. But to accept would violate Will’s rule #1.

Will Grayson #2 says he is trying to get through high school without killing himself or everyone around him. He takes medication for depression, and he hangs out with a girl named Maura, mostly because he doesn’t have other friends. He’s gay, but he hasn’t told anyone yet but his online friend, Isaac.

When Will Grayson meets Will Grayson one unlikely night in Chicago, both their worlds begin to change in unexpected ways.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is written by John Green and David Levithan, two young adult authors known for edgy teen literature. Their joint work is told in alternating chapters, with each Will Grayson penned by a different writer. In less skilled hands the result could be disjointed, but Green and Levithan each create a Will Grayson that is complex and conflicted. In his own way, each Will is isolated and lonely, unsure of his own sexuality and what he’s willing to risk to be friends with someone. In his own way, each keeps his head down until something moves him out of his comfort zone and makes him unhappy with the status quo he has established.

There are big questions for teens involved, and mother-daughter book clubs who take on this book must know what they’re getting into: questions of sexuality, sexual identify, friendship and self-acceptance. There’s plenty of profanity to go around. But it’s refreshing to see an honest look at what it means for a teen to be gay and the challenges a friend of a gay teen faces while supporting his friend. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is also funny, and it will be hard for readers not to fall in love with Tiny Cooper. In fact, at one point Will Grayson #1 says he’s tired of playing a bit part in Tiny Cooper’s life. In some ways, both Wills are playing a bit part in Tiny Cooper’s book. Mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 15 and up should find this book opens up a conversation about lots of issues that may otherwise not come up on their own. I highly recommend it.

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